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Walter Ornstein Collection

Identifier: AR 25750

Scope and Content Note

The Walter Ornstein collection contains documents pertaining to the lives of Walter Ornstein (Series I) and Gertrude Ornstein, née Goldschmidt (Series II). It also contains documents pertaining to other family members (Series III). These include testimonials for Jakob Orenstein (Walter's grandfather?) and official documents of Elsa and Mordko ("Max") Fahrer, Walter's sister and brother-in-law, concerning Goubaud, the perfume business they founded in Vienna and which Walter re-established in New York. Series III also includes notes from a conversation with the donor, Walter's great-granddaughter Stephanie Lukas, concerning the collection.

The collection is notable for tracing the transformation of the family profession, Friseur (barber, hairdresser), from that of Jakob Orenstein – presumably Walter's grandfather or granduncle – as provincial barber-surgeon to Walter's and his sister Elsa's careers as founders of elegant salons and cosmetics enterprises in Vienna and New York. Jakob Orenstein's skills in removing corns (Hühneraugen) from feet are attested in a sheet of testimonials from Tarnow, Austrian Galicia, dated 1883. Educational records name Walter's father as a Friseur and document Walter's schooling and his training in his father's profession. Walter's and Elsa's careers are traceable through legal documents concerning the brand names that they selected for their perfume lines, and formula patents.

Official documents from January 1918 and April 1938 detail Walter's military service from 1 May 1918 through the war's end; he served on the Italian front at Monte Grappa. Most official documents from 1938 directly reflect his circumstances in the wake of the Anschluss, including the requisitioning of his car and his successful effort to emigrate. The collection is notable for documenting the resurrection of his career in the United States. Several letters of recommendation were written on his behalf in the spring of 1939. According to one, from Rabbi George B. Lieberman of the Eoff Street Temple, upon Walter's arrival he joined an uncle, Jacques Front, in Wheeling West Virginia. Two others, from Ella Zirner and her son Ludwig Zirner of the Viennese clothing store Ludwig Zwieback & Bruder, where Walter had run the perfume department, describe his career in Vienna and the forced circumstances of his dismissal. A letter confirming his health insurance dated 2 May 1939 indicates that he had re-settled in New York by this date; an identification card testifies to his service in the New York City Patrol Corps, circa 1942-1944. Legal documents record the purchase of the brand "Goubaud of Paris" from his sister Elsa Fahrer, who was still in Wheeling in 1941.

Legal documents after the end of World War II record Walter's efforts to obtain reparations; his brother Wilhelm represented him in Vienna. Official documents reference his attainment of U.S. citizenship on 20 December 1944.

Most documents pertaining to Gertrude Goldschmidt date from the late 1920s and 1930s, before her move to New York and marriage to Walter Ornstein. These are notable for the many family photos taken in and around Vienna, and for the letters written to her by a suitor, Bronisław Żupnik, while traveling through Europe on behalf of his family's business.


  • 1883-2017
  • Majority of material found within 1913-1958


Language of Materials

The collection is in German and English.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Biographical Note

Walter Ornstein (alternate spelling: Orenstein), who trained as a Friseur (hairdresser, barber), established hair salons and cosmetics stores in Vienna and New York. Born 12 March 1900 in Vienna's ninth district (Alsergrund), he was the son of Isak Joseph Orenstein and Franziska, née Singer. Jakob Orenstein (alternate spelling: Ohrenstein) – presumably a predecessor – and Walter's father were also barbers. The Orensteins appear to have come from Tarnow, Galicia, arriving in Vienna in the late nineteenth century. In 1918 Walter completed his studies and was deemed fit for service in the armed militia (Landsturmdienst mit der Waffe). According to his account from 1938, after training from 15 March through 30 April at Bruck an der Leitha he was assigned to guards regiment ("Schűtzenregiment") 24 where he served on the Italian Front at the position Belluno Monte Grappa until the end of the war.

In 1922 he married Hilda Herschkowitz; they set up house in Vienna's second district, Leopoldstadt. Walter opened a hairdressing and shaving business in Neubau, the seventh district, shortly afterwards. Their son Heinz was born in 1925. When they divorced in 1927, Hilda received the business.

Re-establishing himself, Walter followed the path of his sister Elsa and her husband, Mordko ("Max") Fahrer. Max, owner of a Gemischtwarenhandel ("general store") in the first district, registered the trademark "Goubaud" for his cosmetic preparations in 1934. In 1936 Elsa (Ornstein) Fahrer, proprietor of Parfumerie Goubaud, contracted with Israel Morozoff to represent the firm in Paris. Meanwhile Walter opened three hairdressing and shaving businesses in Vienna and, in 1937, registered the trademark "Gaston" for perfumes.

The Sturmabteilung of the N.S.D.A.P. requisitioned Walter's car in April, 1938, shortly after the Anschluss. By September Walter had secured the necessary papers to immigrate and in October arrived in New York. He Wheeling, West Virginia, where he was received by an uncle, Jacques Front. He returned to New York in the spring of 1939. There he re-established the firm Goubaud, with himself as president and Sydney Newman as secretary-treasurer. While setting up this business in wartime New York, Walter served in the City Patrol Corps. On 20 December, 1944, Walter was naturalized as a citizen of the United States. By 1945, he married his second wife, Gertrude ("Trudie") née Goldschmidt. After the war, Walter received compensation for the loss of his businesses following the Anschluss; his brother Wilhelm represented him in Vienna.

Gertrude Ornstein, née Goldschmidt, was born 12 January 1915 in Vienna. During the 1930’s she wrote love songs and appears to have performed vaudeville-like dances, perhaps as an amateur. She may have had a first marriage, in 1932, to someone named Ernst; if so, it appears to have ended in 1933. A frequent dedicatee of her songs, Bronisław ("Benno") Żupnik, spent the years 1936-1937 traveling, mostly through Central Europe, on behalf of his family's Viennese undergarment firm ("Żupnik"). He intended to marry her once he was financially independent. Gertrude left Vienna at an undetermined date and by 1945 was married to Walter and managing Goubaud's retail stores in New York City. In 2011 her family received posthumous reparations from the Austrian government for her wartime losses.


0.5 Linear Feet


Records pertaining to the life and business activities of Walter Ornstein, proprietor of beauty salons and purveyor of cosmetics. These include business records and patents pertaining to Goubaud, the perfume business that Max and Elsa Fahrer began in Vienna and that Walter Ornstein reestablished in New York. Also included are photograph albums, song lyrics and letters from a suitor of Gertrude Goldschmidt that date to her life in Vienna prior to emigration and marriage to Walter Ornstein.


The materials have been organized in series according to family membership. Materials relating to Gertrude Ornstein, née Goldschmidt, are in a separate series under her maiden name because almost all date to her life before she married Walter.

Related Material

In August 1944 Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc., photographed the Goubaud Beauty Bar at 743 5th Avenue (between 57th and 58th Streets). These photos are available online from the Library of Congress, Gottscho-Schleisner Collection

An article by Jenny Xie from the online journal Curbed, dated January 30, 2015, provides information regarding the fate of the 743 5th Avenue shop.

Separated Material

A book was removed from the collection: Ernst Hermann, Langenscheidts Miniatur-Wörterbuch: Englisch-Deutsch (Langenscheidsche Verlagsbuchhandlung: Berlin-Schőneberg, 1929).

Processing Information

The collection, which was not received in an original order, has been divided into three series: I) Walter Ornstein, II) Gertrude Goldschmidt, and III) Other Family. Each series has been arranged internally according to chronological order. Information provided by donors at time of donation has been included in Series III. A few discrepancies exist between the donor information and documents in the collection. A miniature English-German dictionary donated with the collection has been given to the library; photocopied publication information has been included in folder 4 (Walter Ornstein, 1938). An anonymous photograph of Lyons city hall dated 6 October 1938 has also been placed in folder 4, as he was in France at that time.

Guide to the Papers of Walter Ornstein 1883-2011 AR 25750
Processed by Jeanne-Marie Musto
© 2018
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from Walter_Ornstein.xml

Revision Statements

  • August 23, 2018 : Links to digital objects added in Container List.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States